Friday, July 11, 2008

And Proud of It

"Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter!"

These were the actual, real parting words of President Bush to his last meeting of world leaders at the Gee, Ate summit (where they all had a nice 18 course meal while discussing world hunger.)

According to UK's the Telegraph: "He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock."
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McCain and Gramm: Recession is in your Head, Whiner

Senator Phil Gramm, economic advisor to John McCain and close friend who McCain supported for President in 1996, as well as the author and chief promoter of deregulation laws that led to Enron and the subprime mortgage crisis, and all the lost pensions, bankruptcies, foreclosures and other disasters they caused, said on Thursday:

"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental Recession...We have sort of become a nation of whiners."

John McCain later repudiated these remarks, but he was already on the record--at least twice--asserting that the current recession is largely "psychological."

To be fair, they both are talking about the causes of falling stock market prices and other indicators that in part do reflect confidence, etc. and not directly about people's perceptions of the effects. But the tenor of their remarks, and their blindness to economic problems that are hurting if not completely ruining millions of low and middle income Americans--while their wealthy and super-wealthy friends make more money than ever--is accurately suggested by these remarks. They say the "fundamentals" are strong, which is just another way for them to say that the economy is working just great for their super-rich friends, so don't touch it! It's a view of the economy that in his column today E. J. Dionne says is being universally discredited, even among conservatives.

In response, Barack Obama said: "We don't need another Dr. Phil! We need solutions! It's not just a figment of your imagination. It's not all in your head. When people are struggling to buy gas and groceries....When people are losing their homes...It's not a figment of your imagination. And it's not too much to ask for the government to step in and give you some relief. It's time to have a president who doesn't deny our problems or pretend they don't exist. It's time we had a president who takes responsibility."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Obama For Women and Families

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appeared this morning at a breakfast event for women. Here's part of what Obama said: "But let's be clear: these issues - equal pay, work/family balance, childcare - these are by no means just women's issues. When a job doesn't offer family leave, that also hurts men who want to help care for a new baby or an ailing parent. When there's no affordable childcare or afterschool programs, that hurts children who wind up in second rate care, or spending afternoons alone in front of the TV. When women still make just 77 cents for every dollar men make - black and Latina women even less - that doesn't just hurt women, it hurts families who find themselves with less income, and have to work even harder just to get by.

So you'd think solving these problems would be one of our highest national priorities. But while some politicians in Washington make a lot of noise about family values, when it comes to what people actually need to support their families, and care for their families, and spend time with their families - they get awfully quiet, don't they?"

The photo below is from the event, taken by Daily Kos blogger casperr.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

California Burning (with Update)

1.Smoke-covered central CA photographed from space.
2. Fighting the Big Sur fire, yesterday.
3. The sun in the murk at Hoopa, just east of here. That's probably some of the smoke we're seeing here--and tasting--now. Update 7/10: Hoopa is under an air quality alert and temporary evacuation.
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Trouble in Paradise

The heat, the smoke, the fires threatening the town of Paradise--where as of this afternoon, a third of the residents have been evacuated--is the story of this immense state of California, top to bottom. Searing heat grips most of the state, while the farthest northern area is blanketed in Red Flag warnings for fire weather.

Even here on the North Coast, the temperature today is likely to break records, though nowhere near the 110+ breaking records east and south. Plus the air is tinged yellow with smoke from the hundreds of fires. For two nights now, the moon has been red.

Even this small local trouble suggests the complexities. We avoid driving to save on gas and to limit pollution, but the air quality is so bad that it's not so safe to walk.

Yet media coverage continues to be stupid or just clueless. Apparently the burning of our trees--which is double and triple trouble (sending carbon into the atmosphere, killing the trees that soak carbon in, further drying the landscape, not to mention destroying habitat of any number of species)--is not significant; only the houses of the mostly well-to-do are worth attention. And the heat locally is covered as an opportunity to go to the beach, not the health threat that is poses.

Take this as a small example of a general blindness. From Brian Urquhart's review of a book by UN humanitarian aid chief Jan Egeland in the New York Review of Books, June 26:

"At present, seven times more people are devastated by natural disasters than by war. Climate change may well mean that'once-in-a-generation' disasters will occur quite frequently. Hurricane Katrina, which overwhelmed local and national responses, showed how even the strongest industrialized nations can be vulnerable. The incidence of extreme droughts, hurricanes, tornados, cyclones and floods is increasing, and these are only the most observable effects of changing climate. The World Health Organization has estimated that the world annually suffers 150,000 climate-change-related deaths, and, according to Egeland, this number will double by 2020."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Futurist Helps the Future

Two paintings by Gino Severini,
sometime Futurist and favorite
uncle (sort of), recently sold at
auction for about $45 million,
much more than any of his previous
paintings and a lot more than he
ever got from his work in his lifetime.
(He died in 1966.) But the
proceeds of the sale are going to
Doctors Without Borders, which
is a courageous humanitarian
group that I've contributed some
meager pennies to. Particularly
apt considering that Gino's young son died
because he couldn't afford adequate medical care.

I can't find any good reproducible images
of these paintings, but here's a link
to an image of one of them--the painting that
sold for almost $30 million, "Danseuse (1915)".
Thanks to my sister Kathy for passing on the family
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Hope and Despair for the Future

There's hope from Robert Kennedy, Jr. who writes persuasively that the U.S. can become energy independent using green energy, particularly wind and solar--and prosper in the bargain.

There's despair from Mike Davis, who writes that even the most pessimistic projections for the climate crisis future by the UN panel assume large-scale switch to non-carbon, green energy systems, but that oil and coal interests are actively subverting all real efforts to make that switch--while getting very wealthy in the bargain, especially with oil at $140 a barrel.

The image from Davis that sticks with me is the skyscraper being completed in the capital of obscene oil wealth, Dubai, that will be twice the height of the Empire State Building. "Most of the Gulf city-states are building hallucinatory skylines -- and, among them, Dubai is the unquestionable superstar. In a little more than a decade, it has erected 500 skyscrapers, and currently leases one-quarter of all the high-rise cranes in the world." That wealth comes from the rest of us, and from our future generations. It feels apocalyptic to me.

Monday, July 07, 2008

"Hidden Owls"--Kenojuack Ashevak at by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"People often think that empathy and forgiveness are purely religious topics. Yet these things are related to all areas of life. The survival of the planet depends on whether as many people as possible develop a loving attitude to their environment. This spirit must be developed voluntarily. We cannot violently force it upon anyone. But if humanity does not succeed in developing this all-embracing perspective of love, then I do not know what kind of a future we can expect."

The Dalai Lama